School Board Shifts Return-to-School Plan


East Lansing board meeting on Nov. 25

On Oct. 26, the East Lansing School Board unanimously voted to return to in-person learning on Jan. 4. At that meeting, Superintendent Dori Leyko proposed to offer both face-to-face learning starting in January along with the continuation of virtual learning throughout the school year. 

But shortly after the decision was made, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued a three-week epidemic order that closed all high school learning in Michigan. After the order, Leyko proposed a new timeline at the Nov. 23 board meeting that would push returning to in-person instruction for pre-K through fifth grade no sooner than Jan. 19 with middle school and high school to follow. 

“I don’t feel we will be in any position to return to school on January 4,” Leyko said at the Nov. 23 board meeting.

At the next board meeting, set to take place on Dec. 14, Leyko’s new plan will be voted on.

According to the ELPS transition to in-person instruction draft plan, students will be reintroduced in stages starting with pre-K through fifth grade followed by sixth through 12th grade. Leyko said it is likely that it will be for a shortened school day, . This means that students will attend three of their classes for an extended period of time during the school day. 

When students return to school, there will be an orientation week with a smaller group of students being taught about new COVID-19 protocols and guidelines. According to Leyko, some of these will include health screenings, entering and exiting the building, and moving throughout the building. Whether they choose to remain remote or come back to in-person learning, Leyko emphasized that students will continue to be supported by the district.

“I don’t know what this will look like yet, but families will have access to meal boxes through the end of the school year whether they remain remote or return to in-person,” Leyko said. 

If students elect to return to in-person learning, they will have access to breakfast and lunches in a modified cafeteria setting. 

Additionally, students will be socially distanced in classrooms “to the extent possible,” Leyko said. Staff and students will be provided PPE (personal protection equipment) and may elect to wear their own. However, all students and adults will be required to wear face masks that cover from mouth to chin with a tight fit. Those who do not cooperate with safety rules will be handled on a case-by-case basis. 

Leyko said that teachers will be assigned to instruct either virtual or in-person classes, but not both. Therefore, students may have a change in schedule this coming January depending on if they choose to remain online or opt for in-person learning. 

As the information that Leyko and superintendents around the state receives continuously changes, she recognizes that there are still many unknowns that can shape even more change.

“These past eight months have been the most challenging times as a leader because there are no guidelines for this, and there are no right answers or decisions that please everyone,” Leyko said, “I believe that students will work with us to prioritize the health and safety of everyone in the building.”

For a smoother transition for everyone returning to in-person classes, Leyko recommends everyone work together to create and maintain a safe school space for both students and adults. 

“I cannot wait for the day we can return to school together, but I want to ensure that students and staff feel like it’s safe to do so,” Leyko said.